Good Morning from 35,000ft

Good morning from Europe!  I am over Glasgow, Scotland making the final push for Amsterdam.  Currently it’s about 9am here even though my watch and phone read 2am.  I feel pretty accomplished stealing around 3-4 hours of sleep, albeit an hour of that was spent contorting my body in a new ways to ensure blood flow to my posterior.

The most surprising and delightful part about the flight was tasty food, especially a mango sorbet which was served.  I would’ve been happy without my spinach lasagna if I could’ve opted for another sorbet.  Zoe and I agreed on this point.  More mango sorbet for everyone!  It seems a little thing to be happy about, but it’s always the little things that make a difference when most of the time my flights have beverage service consists a few pretzels or snack mix, if you’re lucky, and 8oz of your drink of choice.

We did fly through a storm last night that was rocking things pretty good.  It was an exercise in how well I could balance food on my fork instead of wearing it like an artist’s palette on my shirt.  Afterwards it was the impetus that rocked Zoe and I off to sleep.  It’s good to know we can sleep during a storm even at 35,000 feet.

All in all the flight was uneventful except for the scare the facilities in the lavatory gave me when they flushed.  It immediately reminded me why I don’t go more often on flights.  Loud noises aside, I still remember the stories my Dad would tell to discourage my sister and I from wanting to go on the plane.  Needless to say, his tactics still work.

For now, it’s time to say adieu.  The map cycling on the screen informs me that we descended about 20,000 feet and are 15 minutes away from touchdown.  As much as I love flying, I’m ready to stretch my legs out and feel the weight of the ground pushing against my feet as I set out to explore Amsterdam.

This post initially appeared on Mis Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: My view as we descend into Amsterdam on the morning of April 10th.

‘Twas the Night Before Amsterdam

If you called me a procrastinator, I would say guilty as charged.  Most of the time I am distracted by lines of poetry and prose that I compose while I’m washing the dishes, cooking dinner, grading essays, lesson planning, and a multitude of activities where I’d rather be doing something else.  Tonight that activity is packing.  In all reality, I know I should’ve already packed for the trip, but I at least made a checklist of what I wanted to take so I’m not completely behind schedule.  

The sheer excitement I feel pulsating through my veins is the same excitement I would feel climbing into bed on Christmas evening.  The excitement that no matter how tight you squeeze your eyes shut hoping to fall asleep you can’t.  At least not until that sweet exhaustion anticipation has caught up with you and you drift off, a small smile still playing at the corners of your lips.  However, the nap after opening presents is the soundest, most peaceful rest of the year.  That will be me tomorrow about 6pm as we take off from Chicago O’Hare on an eight hour flight to Amsterdam.

For now, it’s the night before Amsterdam, and I am letting visions of tulips dance in my head:

‘Twas the night before Amsterdam, when all through the house
I was frantically searching for the perfect blouse.
The luggage stood empty; the clothes were not there.
I has to de-fuzz them as they were covered in corgi hair.
Final arrangements were made, itineraries were reread
When all I wanted was to sleep in my bed.
The hotel and “must see’s” were checked on the map.
A forte for planning would ensure no mishap.
When all of a sudden I squealed with laughter.
This anxious excitement was all procrastination blabber.

Tomorrow the adventure starts; it’s sure to be blissful.
But if I don’t get some sleep it will be more like abysmal!
So, I leave these words with you before I settle down for the night-
“Happy to travels to all, and to all a good flight!”

This post initially appeared at Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Flight” by ThePixelman (CC0 Public Domain)

Embarking on an Adventure

I have always wanted to travel internationally.  The cultures, ethnic food, and historical locations have been a magnet drawing the vane of my imagination since I can remember.  Once, back in college, I was this close to spending a semester abroad in Cork, Ireland.  Through a series of unfortunate events, my passport was packed away in a keepsake box, and a few years later I entered the field of education and worked to open up worlds of possibilities for my students through teaching literature.  Looking back now, it seems almost serendipitous that I would find myself drawn to San Antonio, AFIA, and the chance to dig out that old passport and dust it off.

We had been gathered together by Mr. Rockstroh sometime in late November.  It was the holiday season for the school, and there were quite a few announcements that needed to be made.  Admittedly, my mind was wandering towards lessons and planning and grading, as it’s wont to do, when something stuck.  “We’re sending one facilitator and one student to Amsterdam to participate in programs with the Anne Frank House.  How cool is that?”  How cool indeed!  Immediately, the fire of memory and expectation sparked inside me.  

Reading the Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, the prose Anne wrote that elicited such youthful earnestness and a timeless evocation of wisdom and worldly understanding spoke to me and helped me find an escape during a time when I struggled with self-identity and angst.  The beauty of the diary’s words helped me to see the beauty in the world, in myself.  Now, as an adult, Mr. Rockstroh’s announcement sparked the desire for the opportunity to go to Amsterdam and to learn in order to bring that beauty back and use it as a mirror for my students to look into to see their beauty and potential.

The decision wouldn’t be made quickly, but we would be receiving information to follow.  An anxious Christmas break ensued and a return to classes in January was full of anxiety as I waited to hear how the facilitator would be selected to attend.  The application and selection process had commenced for the student, but still no word had been given on the facilitator selection.  I checked my email messages every day and casually inquired about it in passing conversation as I didn’t want to pester or seem overly eager.  Then one morning my email dinged “Facilitator Application – Amsterdam Trip” from Dr. Etienne.  Without hesitation I opened it and devoured the contents.  We would be writing an essay explaining why we would like to attend.  I both simultaneously groaned and cheered.

There are three internal voices that speak up when I really want for something: the “I’m going to get it no matter what” competitor’s voice that makes me seem too ambitious at times; the “I am not good enough to make this happen so why should I even try for it” self-conscious voice that talks me out of achieving as much as I could; and the “Carrie, don’t listen to either of them – just do your best and speak from your heart” voice that echoes the soft intonation and kind encouragement of my mom.  Ultimately, I listened to my heart because you can never go wrong making that decision.

So now, I am a week away from stepping on a plane that will whisk me across the world to Amsterdam, to exploration, to growth, to discovery.  In the days to come I will have to pack, unpack, and evaluate everything: clothes, preconceptions, learning, language, emotion, and things I can’t even think of yet.  I don’t know how to feel except as a bundle of excitement and hope.  I am the proverbial wide-eyed and slack-jawed child staring at presents wrapped in the colors of joy, reflecting back the twinkling lights of promise, and I am beyond thrilled to bring you along on this journey.

This post initially appeared at Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Luggage” by MikeBird (CC0 Public Domain)

A few lines composed during state standardized testing

Their heads are bowed
in suspended animation
or it could be silent prayer.
There’s a good chance
it’s a little of both.
Bodies hunch over,
shoulders thrust forward,
shielding their fragile flame
from the storm of data disaggregation.
An uncomfortable silence
stretches on into the abyss of
“Thou shalt not write outside the box”
and flecks of pink eraser.

All this a mockery
to the life of individuality,
the promise of self exploration,
that previously filled the halls.
My students –
knowing and yet not knowing.
A horrible amalgamation of
imposed requirement and Schrodinger.

These momentary glimpses
at the normalizing of standardization
and erasure of student identity
makes me want to rip down the sheets of paper
I used to blanket their work on the walls
and throw a ticker-tape parade
with the shredded test books
as we celebrate a return to creativity.

Featured Image: Pixabay – “Desks” by macco0514 (CC0 Public Domain)

Nature Walk

I went on a nature walk with my creative writing students a few weeks ago.  A week of lazy afternoon suns had warmed up the little bit of winter we received here in Texas, and Spring was vividly pulsing through the air.  The Texas mountain laurel had just put on their blooms, and the smell of grape kool-aid made me light-headed as we walked the trail behind our school.

We had begun to study haikus, and it seemed the perfect day to experience the birth that nature gives to writing.  After our brief repose, we came back and wrote haikus about things we noticed the world was saying to us.  It has been almost a month since then, and our work with haikus has undoubtedly improved.  Here are a couple I wrote on that first day:

Mister Butterfly,
what are you doing here, sir?
Your flowers sleep still.

Breathing quiet life
like frozen pond lilies do –
Silence calls to me.

In response to Daily Prompt: Vivid
Feature Image: Pixabay – “Walking” by PublicDomainArchive (CC0 Public Domain)

An Educator’s Soul

A week ago, my school selected me among several staff members to travel to the Netherlands.  I am beyond excited to have been given this rare and wonderful opportunity to attend the educational programs and participate in discussions at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  Below is the essay I wrote as part of my application.  These words move beyond the page to my very soul.  They are my beliefs, my hopes, my dreams.  I hope they help you dream, too.

I want to be a world builder, an architect drafting plans for human greatness.  I draw inspiration from those who have come before me; their words reaching back through the ether of a dusty page.  With this raw material, I form it into dialogue and reflection, and I use it to brush away the ash of anger, insecurity, fear, hate, and war that the world tries to slip under my door.  It is the lens through which I see beauty left in this world.

Being an educator gives me the opportunity to share this beauty with others.  I could live a thousand lifetimes and not experience the full gamut of joys that come from dedicating one’s life to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.  My Dad has an old saying: “The only thing in this world they cannot take from you is your education.”  The older I become, the more I read, and the more I see the tribulations in this world increasing, the more I understand its truth.

I believe Anne Frank inherently embraced this truth, and it was through her understanding that an etching of its beauty was placed upon the soul of the world.  Even though her talent and proclivity for evoking the human spirit through word was taken too early, she achieved her dream of becoming a writer, and while she may not have wanted it, she became a most wondrous educator.  I, too, want my words to matter, to have them leave etchings on the hearts of those I teach.  I, too, want the quiet conscience of having done all the good I can to build up my students.

Armed with these beliefs, I want to participate fully in all things to increase my capacity for human greatness.  I owe it to the futures of my students to increase their capacity to hope, love, and dream – to be resilient in the face of adversity.  I want them to look out the windows of their school and see the beauty that awaits them.

Featured image: Pixabay- “Tulip” by corinaselberg (CC0 Public Domain)

“Just Google It”

My Dad has this parable he enjoys relaying about how his superiors are often flabbergasted at his knowledge and inner workings of mechanics, engineering, politics, world events, and a plethora of other topics.  These pearls of wisdom come at the expense of the other person when they are unable to do a mathematical calculation or find the answer to a seemingly simple question, but they are pearls, nonetheless.  His punchline is always the same: “If they don’t believe me, I tell them they can go Google it for themselves.”  For my Dad, this is code for something resembling far less tact.  

As an educator, I get asked plenty of questions.  These usually revolve around mundane, protocol objectives, such as “When is this due?”, “Do we have to do this?”, “Is this for a grade?”, “Are you going to count off for spelling?”, and “Do we have to write in complete sentences?”.  The sad state of things is that I usually posit more questions to my students than I get asked.  Let me rephrase that: I posit more questions of substance to my students than I get asked in return.

The purpose of this “Discover Challenge” is to dissect and explore a time when we were asked a question where we had to weigh the options of how we would answer.  As I sat down ready to whet my appetite surrounding tough discussions, I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve had one.  Perhaps I’m in an echo chamber and everyone I converse with has similar beliefs.  However, in my experience it’s not so much the echo chamber affecting the complexity of questions asked but that the art of asking a good question is disappearing, and with it, the ability to think critically and use empathy to formulate a response is slipping away.

The one question I’ve been stumped to find a reasonable and innovative solution to is “how do I make my English class more beneficial for my students?”.  I believe I have found my answer.  It wasn’t one I could Google though I did search for lesson ideas and discussion techniques.  In an age where finding information, both factual and half-baked, is basically implanted into us at youth, we need to focus on how to ask questions that require empathy and conversation to answer and not the Internet to “just Google it”.

In response to Discover Challenge: Tough Questions
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Question” by Qimono (CC0 Public Domain)